America's Civil War


When the Civil War began in April 1861, Richard Watson York was a 21-year-old schoolmaster living near Raleigh, N.C. He had already organized his students into a militia troop, which became Company I of the 6th North Carolina Infantry in May and served all four years in what became known as the Army of Northern Virginia. After the war, “Watt” York—the 6th’s first captain—wrote occasional articles about the regiment and what he had seen while serving. One of those appeared in 1875 in the magazine Our Living and Our Dead—“Gen. Hood’s Release From Arrest: An Incident of the Battle of Boonesboro”—and recounts an occurrence that has somehow escaped many historians’ attention over the years.

At the Second Battle of Manassas in August 1862, the 6th North Carolina fought in Colonel Evander A. Law’s Brigade, part of Brig. Gen. John Bell Hood’s Division. On August 30, the battle’s final day, Hood’s commander, Maj. Gen. James Longstreet, positioned nearly 20,000 men—five divisions in all—for a crushing onslaught on the Union army’s left flank. Longstreet chose Hood’s Texas Brigade to be the “column of direction” for the entire force.

The ball opened about 4 p.m. with a ruthless attack by Hood on the 5th New York Infantry (Duryée’s Zouaves). In roughly 10 minutes, the stunned Zouaves had been all but destroyed, the survivors fleeing desperately.

As Hood’s men pursued the overwhelmed Federals up Chinn Ridge, the general called for help from Brig. Gen. Nathan G. “Shanks” Evans, positioned to his right. Unrelenting Confederate pressure finally succeeded in driving the Yankees from the ridge by 6 p.m., but Hood’s and Evans’ troops were understandably depleted, scattered, and exhausted. They

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